Gift ideas -- choicest new books for the holidays; An up-to-minute dictionary; The American Heritage Dictionary. Second College Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1,568 pp. $13.95.

This is not the only dictionary up to date enough to include ''punk rock.'' But the definition here is more perceptive than others sampled, and it has not taken much more browsing to feel sure that this new edition will be as welcome at our house as the original one.

Somehow that earlier volume found its way to the kitchen and stayed there, handy for family look-ups and perennially surprising us with its freshness and scope. We still like its single listing, including people and places, with somewhat more detailed definitions and notes on usage than in the present volume. But the latter's separate biographical and geographical entries are more inclusive. Numerous marginal illustrations - such a distinctive American Heritage feature - remain on these smaller pages, and amazingly they are not simply the same ones recycled.

It's wise to compare dictionaries for your own or a gift recipient's particular needs before making the investment they now require. Certainly here is a candidate for comparison not to be overlooked.

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